Industry Interviews – Ryan Laukat, Red Raven Games.

Greetings All,
Sorry about the long wait between posts. I have been working on my anniversary gift for my husband and therefore have been a bit preoccupied, however, I have been doing some sharing and interacting on my Facebook and Twitter so if you’re hankering for some Living by the Board love please give us a follow! 🙂
Today I get to bring you a lovely little interview from Ryan Laukat of Red Raven Games. My favorite Red Raven game is Above and Below. Oddly enough my anniversary gift for my husband is a mini adventure of our time together in the format of Above and Below including new adventures and character cards. If you want to hear more about my gift and my husbands Mice & Mystics gift, please stay tuned! Until then, enjoy the interview folks!
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1) When you were younger you did some commercials as a boy Soprano, correct? Can you provide me with a link to see one by chance?
(I have a solo at about 19 seconds)
2)I understand that you currently have a second job at Cannonball Musical Instruments. My daughters were super excited to learn about that because they play flute and saxophone. Outside of this, what job(s) did you have before your gaming career?
Because Cannonball is a family business my parents started when I was young, that was my first job, and I’ve worked there since I was sixteen. Before I started Red Raven, though, I did freelance illustration in the board game industry for companies like Rio Grande and Z-Man Games.
3)I’ve read that you and your wife both participated in Missions. You lived in the Dominican Republic for a spell, how did you enjoy that?
I have a special place in my heart for the Dominican Republic. I loved the time that I lived there. Coincidentally, my love for euro games came from my time there. I had a copy of Puerto Rico which I played many times there.
4)What was the first game you ever designed?
I was twelve years old. It was a card game inspired by trading card games. I painted cards with monsters and creatures that would battle each other with different abilities.
5)You created Red Raven Games in 2011. What was the inspiration for the company name?
I had written a short story with a red raven in it and decided to use that for the company name.
6)What was the first title published under Red Raven Games?
Empires of the Void. It’s a space exploration game and we only made one print run. Now, years later, we are publishing its sequel: Empires of the Void II
7)What is your favorite Red Raven game and Favorite non-Red Raven game?
My favorite Red Raven game is City of Iron. My favorite non-Red Raven game is Agricola. But I also really like games that are immersive of that tell an intriguing story.
 
8)Given market trends and the performance of Red Raven Games catalogue, what do you believe the future holds for the company, such as expanding the company and it’s game library?
There will probably be lots of new story games throughout the years. 
9)Obviously your wife is heavily involved in the company and therefore gaming. Do your children enjoy tabletop gaming as well?
Our kids love board games. Every time we sit down to play, they want to come and join. They help us play test and they’ve even started designing their own games.
10)Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to be involved in the gaming industry?
The most important thing about getting involved in the gaming industry is doing it because you love it. Also, get involved in-game groups, design groups, trade shows, demos–anything you can. It’s important to meet people and make connections, not just to get started, but because this industry is very interactive and friendly. Everyone is there to help you and give you useful input.
I want to thank Ryan and his wife Malorie, as well as Red Raven Games for this interview. It is greatly appreciated. Thank you everyone for reading and until next time… Live by the Board.
-Livingbytheboard

Meet “The Husband”!

Hello Readers,

Well, every other contributor wrote a profile article, suppose I should crank out one. I am “The Husband,” here’s hoping you find the aimless prattling about my the more hobby-centric portions of my life interesting. Either way, let’s kick thing’s off, shall we?

Due in no small part to my (almost 6 years older than me) brother, I’ve had an interest in “geek culture” since even the most early of my memories. I grew up playing on an Nintendo Entertainment System, reading comics, and playing parlor games with my family. During every family gathering (of which there were A LOT), I was forced onto a folding chair to be slid into whichever side of a card table needed a warm body in order to “fill out numbers.” Odd evenings spent being inundated with long diatribes about how my generation were a mouth breathing herd of degenerates…and being viciously obliterated at games of Skip-Bo (Mattel) or Phase 10 (Mattel). My initial impression of table top gaming was being voraciously descended on by 30-70 year olds whom wanted to impart on me some manner of comeuppance.

…I assure you, it gets better.

When I was much younger, my brother would take me on excursions to our friendly local comic shop, upon occasion…whenever my Mother would proclaim that she was weary of looking at her “little mistakes.” I swear, that joke gets funnier with time…no? O-okay… Regardless, this particular shop was my initial gateway to multiple things that would heavily influence my life. My first comic, first manga, first anime, and my first table top game that was all my own!

See, this shop generally kept primarily to selling trading cards and (the gorgeous and all too confusing for my young brain) Magic the Gathering (Wizards of the Coast) as its gaming contingent. However, one day I stumbled into the corner of the store furthest away from my precious “DC Dollar Bin…” and there it was… a wall of composed entirely of baggie games! That’s to say, games that were packed into moderately sized baggies, in lieu of boxes. As I scanned the wall, one game in particular caught my eye: Ogre – Pocket Edition! (Steve Jackson Games) Featured on its cover was a large, futuristic, hovering tank volleying bombs every which way but loose! My young brain was enthralled with the prospect of bombing the ever lovin’ ass out of everything! What’s more…it only cost $2.95! My brother, seeing an opportunity to circumvent possible begging, purchased the game for me…under the agreement that I shut up. It only took 3 bucks to buy me off as a child…oh how little has changed.

As I went through my preteen and early adolescent years I found myself drifting towards athletics, video games…and girls. Sure, I tried the occasional game here and there, sampled Settlers of Catan (Mayfair Games), played the occassional nondescript RPG, and the occassional collectible card game. But, primarily my hobbies were left in the electronic realm. Fast forward to age 18…when I suddenly became a Father of three. Now, it’s a safe assumption that children like video games, but there’s some connection that’s simply lacking on a digital medium. And that’s when I decided to give parlor games a try…I never knew Skip-Bo wasn’t terrible! It also helps when I’m the person verbally assailing the other players: “I haven’t seen such a crappy move since the last time I had to change your diaper! HA!”

My return to the hobby didn’t occur in earnest until I met my Wife, the blog author with whom you readers are so well acquainted. See, she encouraged me to seek out my interests and enjoy all of the things in life there weren’t previously available to me, for any number of reasons. I got back into comics, anime, and table top gaming. Less than a year after we initially became a coupling, I was already sonically berating her during games of Skip-Bo! Loyal readers, it was true love. Due to lovely programs like Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop and Tom Vasel’s Dice Tower channel, I had an amazing insight into the hobby that once intrigued me so much as a kid…and now financially cripples me as an adult.

Now my days consist of violently pacing around my table during a game of Disc Duelers (Level 99 Games), accusingly pointing at the horrible person who totally obstructs Las Vegas (anarchistic jerkfaces!) during a game of Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder), or weepily staring bullet holes through the person who purchased the only large building that would allow me one final sliver of hope for victory in Puerto Rico (Rio Grande Games). Needless to say, I love it!

This hobby is a phenomenal one, filled with the highs of ravenously gathering up victory points one game, to the monumental lows of hearing the thunderous roar of your large Nordic friend (KYLE!) bellowing “Wu-Tang” as another player (SAM!) manages to Kill Doctor Lucky (Cheapass Games) with an overly tight hat. But, you know what’s even more phenomenal than this hobby? Having family and friends to share it with…and to verbally berate.

Thanks for reading.

– The Husband

Recruiting New Gamers

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Greetings All,

This is one I still struggle with. My husband, however, is much better at than I am, which is why I asked him to co-write this one with me. I’m fairly certain that half of the ability to convince people to try board games has to do with charming them. My husband is by the far the most charming person I know so he has a very easy time getting people on his side. Please read more below to get his take on recruiting new gamers. Enjoy. 🙂


-Husband-

To recruit new gamers, you need to at least have a vague idea who you’re playing with. This makes it way easier to potentially draw anyone from the hardened gamer to the total neophyte.

Know someone who’s never played board games, but loves video games? Too easy! Suggest an analogue of a favorite game of their’s! “You like Starcraft? How about showing me your strategic prowess in a quick game of OGRE?” Know someone who likes casual cell phone games? Too easy! “Something quick, easy and fun? How about you lend me 10 minutes of your time and play some Coin Age or Brave Rats with me?” How about a non-competitive type who just wants to have fun? “How’s about a co-operative game then? We can save OUR castle together!” I’ve found that far and away the easiest way to get people to game (in any situation) is to tailor your approach, almost like you’re trying to sell gaming as a product. “Man, have you ever heard of a game called Disc Duelers? It’s like a super open game of RPG battle pogs!!!” “Dude, Zombie Dice is like zombie Yahtzee…y’know, except without being schooled by old people.” I jest, of course! Or my general use line: “Can I borrow five minutes of your life? I’ll repay it 100 fold in entertainment!”

BATTLE POGS

If you do manage to secure someone for game night, its almost equitable to catching a fish on a hook… now you just have to reel them in! And how do you do that? You whip out the AAA titles from your game shelf! I am a thorough believer in “palate cleaner” or “feeler” games. By which, I mean shorter games that will better help you understand the temperature of the table. Did your table of new invites enjoy the rule light, rapid play game? Or the slower, more complicated/methodical game? These are important things to know about your guests to insure the success of your evening as well as potentially insuring the return of your guests.

Great “feeler games” I personally use are:

Love Letter by AEG

2-4 players (we’ve played w/ 5), 10-20 mins

Love Letter is easily one of the biggest, quickest crowd pleasers I own. Easy to learn rules, quick gameplay, and a friendlier competitive structure. Hard to go wrong with this one.


This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 2-4 Of Us by TMG

2-4 players (we’ve played with 5), 10-15 mins

This game shares a lot of elements with Carcassonne. Fantastic simplicity coupled with a hidden level of complexity make this an easy way to spot the more thoughtful members attending your table.


We Didn’t Playtest This At All by Asmadi

2-15 players, 1-5 mins

This is a card game that is so absurd, it’s divisive. It’ll either be an instant favorite, or an eye roller. Great way to sift through senses of humor, or lack thereof.

Fantasy by Asmodee

2-4 players (we’ve played with 5), 20-30 mins

Fantasy is a slightly longer card game with (somewhat) simple rules, and a nice (you guessed it!) fantasy motif that keeps players in the game until the last card is dealt and the scores are tallied. A great game to help your table rev up for a tougher, longer game.


Now, let’s get to real meat and potatoes of all of this. The AAA crowd pleasers that turn these new acquaintances into fast friends:

Ticket To Ride by Days of Wonder

2-5 players, 30-60 mins

If you’re visiting this blog, odds are you’ve AT LEAST heard about this game…or I’m actively judging you and your life decisions. 🙂 Needless to say, few board games can truly pull in veterans and neophytes alike. It’s got a great, turn of the 20th century aesthetic, profoundly easy to understand rules, and utterly FANTASTIC gameplay. I can’t opine about this game enough!


Castle Panic by Fireside Games

1-6 players, 30-60 mins

I’ll be frank with you readers, this is my personal favorite game of all time. Published by Fireside Games, this is a co-operative “tower defense” style game. This game is a remarkable bonding experience for all involved! It’s you and your team struggling against a common foe, you’re all left with little more than randomly drawn cards and your wits! Fantastic for game nights!


Puerto Rico by Rio Grande Games

3-5 players (there is a 2 player variant), 90 mins

This one is quite a bit more complicated than the previous entries on this list. Puerto Rico is a “prosperity” simulator, in essence, this game tasks you with being able to expand your city and island faster (and more efficiently) than your opponents. There is a very little luck to strategy ratio for this game, so veteran gamers are likely dominate during the first play through with neophytes. This game is equipped with no “actual” game board to play on, but is managed through individual’s city boards and a PLETHORA of smaller game pieces, so this game does require a little bit of imagination. That said, this is a 90 minute game with a HIGH amount of strategy and lateral thinking…so this game isn’t for everyone. HOWEVER, I HIGHLY recommend this for every kind of gamer…at least to try once.

Variety is the spice of life, however, most people will be more inclined to try a new dish if it looks more appetizing. Bottom line, presentation AND substance are both CRITICAL in your approach to gaining new members of your table. Just play your experience by ear, and try to cater to everyone’s tastes without compromising anyone’s. And, above all else, MAKE SURE TO HAVE FUN!


I’ll have to have him co-write more often… I’m pretty sure he blew me out of the water! 🙂 Anyhow, his description was shockingly accurate to how our “gaming interviews” go. When I say gaming interviews it is exactly what it sounds like, we’ve even told people they were essentially being interviewed to be a regular at our table.

We both hope you enjoyed this topic, as it was readers choice. Soon I will be starting another three-day segment, this time regarding solo play games. Until next time… Live by the Board.

-livingbytheboard